Speaking Up!

Meet Jack Kent Cooke scholar Abby Escatel (left) and her mentor, speech professor Lauren Morgan.
(photo by Tony Armour Photography/special to College of DuPage)

Riverside resident Abby Escatel walked into Speech 1100 like most students taking the course: She was there because she had to be, not because she wanted to be. The course is required, said Escatel, and “I was trying to finish school as soon as I could.”

But a funny thing happened on the way to her fast-track education. While Escatel’s speech professor, Lauren Morgan, was “incredibly challenging,” and while Escatel had never done public speaking, she aced the class. 

Then Morgan recruited Escatel for the COD speech team. She won a gold medal in national competition. She helped the team win a national championship.

Morgan also hired Escatel as a part-time office manager. 

That time together in class, the workplace and on the road to competitions led to a rare mentor-protégé partnership. 

“My first year on the team, my family and I were going through foreclosure procedures and had to move,” said Escatel. “Lauren was very understanding. She made me realize my optimism and strength. Ever since then, I’ve known Lauren was more to me than just my teacher or speech coach.”

Morgan sparked a fire in Escatel. She changed her major from paralegal studies to speech communication. She found other COD faculty members who challenged her and helped her
“think bigger.” 

With that encouragement, the young woman who saw many of her high school classmates drop out, whose Mexican immigrant parents urged her to press on, who balanced sales work at Nordstrom, school at COD and raising her daughter Natalia, landed a prestigious $30,000 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. She’s now working toward a bachelor’s in Speech Communication at North Central College.

Morgan, who teaches between 120 to 130 students per semester, says the mentor magic happens rarely, maybe once a year. 

“The first time I saw Abby in class, she sat in front. She had lots of questions. She was a good speaker. So I kept encouraging her to try the speech team,” said Morgan. Eventually, Escatel signed on. She’d found her passion, said Morgan. “You could see it in her face.”

Morgan said mentoring isn’t something one does intentionally. “In some ways, it’s a virtue of what I teach. When people speak aloud about their relationships with others and ideas that matter to them, you get to know them well.”

For Escatel, it’s made a difference she one day hopes to pass on to her daughter and others. 

“COD made me realize my love of learning and provided me with the tools necessary to be successful,” said Escatel. Those tools include not only Morgan and other teachers, but also her JKC Foundation funding.

“When you’re given such a prestigious scholarship, the horizons inevitably expand. Whatever I do with my life, I want to give back to my community in some way,” said Escatel. 

Priority one is Natalia, now a 5-year-old would-be cowgirl.

“She thinks that bringing home trophies from school (for speech competition) is normal and she’s excited to go to college, or what she calls ‘mommy school,’ so she can win her own trophies,” said Escatel.

But her real wish is that Natalia someday reaps another kind of reward.

“If my daughter were to someday find her own Lauren Morgan,” said Escatel, “I would not only be incredibly grateful to that instructor, but would also remind Natalia to soak in as much as she can. To this day, the best leadership qualities I’ve observed have come from my Lauren Morgan.”


Contact Information

Direct all comments and questions to the editor at impact@cod.edu.

College of DuPage
425 Fawell Boulevard
Glen Ellyn IL 60137

Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship Winner 2013


Abigail Escatel

The Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship is the largest private scholarship for two-year and community college transfer students. College of DuPage student, Abigail Escatel, was named one of this year's recipients.

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